Lucius Cornelius Balbus (consul)

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Lucius Cornelius Balbus (called Major—"the Elder"—to distinguish him from his nephew) was born in Gades early in the first century BC.

Life[edit]

He served in Hispania under Pompey and Metellus Pius against Sertorius. For his services against Sertorius Roman citizenship was conferred upon him and his family by Pompey. He accompanied Pompey on his return to Rome in 71 BC, and was for a long time one of his most intimate friends. He also gained the friendship of Julius Caesar, who placed great confidence in him. Balbus' personal friendships with Pompey and Caesar were instrumental in the formation of the First Triumvirate. He was a chief financier in Rome. Balbus served under Caesar as chief engineer (praefectus fabrum) when Caesar was propraetor to Hispania in 61 BC, and proconsul to Gaul in 58 BC.

His position as a naturalized foreigner, his influence and his wealth naturally made Balbus many enemies, who in 56 BC put up a native of Gades to prosecute him for illegally assuming the rights of a Roman citizen, a charge directed against the triumvirs equally with himself. Cicero (whose speech has been preserved),[1][2] Pompey and Crassus all spoke on his behalf, and he was acquitted. During the civil war, Balbus did not take any open part against Pompey. Though it was reported that Balbus dined with Caesar, Sallust, Hirtius, Oppius, and Sulpicus Rufus on the night after his famous crossing over the Rubicon river into Italy, January 10, 49 BC.[3] He endeavored to get Cicero to mediate between Caesar and Pompey, with the object of preventing him from definitely siding with the latter; and Cicero admits that he was dissuaded from doing so, against his better judgment.

Balbus attached himself to Caesar, and, in conjunction with Oppius, had the entire management of Caesar's affairs at Rome. Subsequently, Balbus became Caesar's private secretary, and Cicero was obliged to ask for his good offices with Caesar. After Caesar's murder in 44 BC, Balbus was equally successful in gaining the favour of Octavian; in 43 BC or 42 BC he was praetor, and in 40 BC he became the first naturalized Roman citizen to attain the consulship.[4] The year of his death is not known. Balbus kept a diary of the chief events in his own and Caesar's life (Ephemeris), which has been lost (Suetonius, Caesar, 81). He took care that Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic war should be continued; and accordingly the 8th book of the Commentarii de Bello Gallico (which was probably written by his friend Hirtius at his instigation) is dedicated to him.

Legacy[edit]

At the end of the 19th century, there was a revival of interest in Balbus. His name was featured in a widely used elementary textbook, Gradatim, an Easy Latin Translation Book. (1881). Children in the 19th century learned to write by copying and translating the Latin sentences and stories about the Romans, and Balbus was one of those Romans.[5] For example,

§ 21. (a) The Relative is used to avoid repeating a word (called its Antecedent) already used once.
Video murum, quem Balbus aedificavit.
I see the wall, which Balbus built.
If there were no Relative we should have to say,
Video murum, et Balbus eum murum aedificavit.
I see the wall, and Balbus built that wall.[5]

In the 20th century, modern interest in Balbus was enhanced when multiple references to this Roman official were included in James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Finnegans Wake.[6]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Cicero's speech: For Cornelius Balbus (English trans. Yonge, 1891). @ Perseus.tufts.edu. [1]
  2. ^ Cicero's speech: Latin text.
  3. ^ Dando-Collins, Stephan (2002). The Epic Saga of Julius Caesars Tenth Legion and Rome. p. 67. ISBN 0-471-09570-2. 
  4. ^ Cicero, Marcus Tullius. (1872). Selected letters, p. 122 n15., p. 122, at Google Books
  5. ^ a b Heatley, Henry Richard et al. (1882). Gradatim, an Easy Latin Translation Book, p. 34., p. 34, at Google Books
  6. ^ Schork, R. J. (1997) Latin and Roman culture in Joyce, p. 49., p. 49, at Google Books

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]